Blue Coppice Blatherings

Blather and balderdash about stitching, design and domestic life.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Moan, moan, moan....

I apologise in advance for this posting, but I want to whinge.

Why do we have wisdom teeth? They don't seem to provide me with extra wisdom, all they do is cause me pain and anguish! What is the point of them?

At the moment, the bottom two are growing at an acute angle towards the back of my mouth and towards my cheeks. For several years, I've had the usual intermittent aching jaw and this hasn't caused me too many problems, howeverI've really been suffering over the past week. Both teeth are digging sharply into my cheeks, meaning that I'm having problems eating anything that requires me to chew unless I want to eat my own cheeks as well.

So, I phone the dentist only to find that he's decided not to have appointments on Saturdays anymore, and the next appointment that's only mildly inconvenient, rather than completely impossible to make, is on the 16th November. Bah, humbug.


On the bright side, I managed to get quite a lot of stitching done this weekend so Part 2 of the workshop piece should be finished this week. :) No pictures yet though - it's being kept under wraps until Jane published her 2005 brochure! I'm probably going to be teaching the pieces at Hengrave Hall, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk - the provisional dates are 11th-13th November 2005, but it could all change....

If you are interested in this workshop, please contact Jane Dickinson of Great Escapes on - I'll look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Friday ramblings...

It's my birthday today & I'd like to publically thank my friends & family for their good wishes & presents!

OH gave me the most beautiful handbag in the softest dusky pink leather imaginable - I keep fondling it in the office & making excuses to find things in the pockets... My friends have either been colluding with OH or have psychic abilities as they gave me a gorgeous suede covered notebook for sketching & doodling in - and it fits into the bag as if they were made to be together! There was also a suede frame in my parcel which would look perfect with a small piece of stitching inside, I've got a few ideas already for that one but it might be empty until next year when I can slot another project into my timetable!

Thanks to my very generous family, I have just treated myself to a new pair of scissors - 4" embroidery scissors from the new "Olivia" range from Gingher. They have a very pretty floral pattern on the handles which I think will look rather good with the scissor keep & scissor holder designs I've got in the pipeline.

I think scissors are probably my greatest stitching weakness. Some people collect the full range of DMC or AVAS etc, some collect yards of linen; well I'm susceptible to scissors. My mother was recently at the IOLI 2004 convention in Pennsylvania & picked up a very sweet pair for me with transluscent blue handles. I have a similar pair but with pale pink handles and a stainless steel pair of Ginghers (both of which modelled in the picture for the Beehive Scissor Keep!), so I don't really need another pair at all, but what the hell? That's what birthdays are for!

Have a good weekend, everyone! :)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Progress at last...

Hurrah! After a reasonably productive weekend, I managed to finish the first part of a workshop piece!

Time's been conspiring against me for this one - everytime I tried to sit down to it in the evening, there would be some kind of crisis or problem. By the time the problem was solved & the chores were finished, I'd be left with less than an hour to stitch - not really long enough to complete anything...

To start at the beginning, I've been asked to run a weekend workshop in late summer/autumn 2005 by Jane Dickinson of Great Escapes. Initially, I thought that would leave me plenty of time to prepare the piece and the packs, but of course I'd forgotten that Jane would need a picture of the completed piece to go into the 2005 brochure - by November. Ho hum!

So for the past couple of weeks, I've been designing & stitching a little something that will offer enough challenges to the more experienced stitchers, whilst not frightening beginners and demonstrates some of the key elements for working my designs. The main piece is now completed (all descriptions have to be kept under wraps until the brochure is produced!) and now I'm working on the extra piece for the really speedy stitchers who finish the other piece ahead of time.

As usual, I'm counting down the minutes at work until I can shoot home and get back to stitching. I'm really pleased with the way this one has turned out, and the second part will just be the finishing touch. Once the pieces are finished, they'll be rushed down to my mother ready to be photographed. Luckily, my mother is an excellent photographer who is extremely experienced at photographing textiles so I know the pictures will show the pieces at their best - it's just a wrench to part with them! And I can never quite trust Royal Mail, even with Special Guaranteed Extortionate Price Delivery....

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Time flies....

Well, hello again!

This is going to be a common complaint throughout this blog - the problem of time. Or lack of it.

As I have previously mentioned, I work full-time to pay the mortgage & bills which leaves evenings & weekends for designing & stitching. Hmmm. Take out the time needed for housework (sorry, I do apologise for swearing), eating, sleeping and talking to my neglected OH, friends & cat - and you're left with a couple of hours on a good night & maybe 2-4 hours at a weekend....

That's not long.

I can design at work during quiet times & lunch-hours, but at the moment I have loads of designs & no time to stitch them all! Now it has been suggested to me that I employ a model stitcher - sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? After all, that's what most designers do!

Unfortunately, for me it's just not going to work for various reasons:

1. One of the problems I find is that a design can work beautifully on paper while losing its impact in three-dimensions when worked on fabric. If I am stitching the piece, I can see this & make the necessary adjustments or scrap the design entirely. The key elements to my designs are the textures that you can create with different stitching - how can you duplicate this on a two-dimensional piece of paper?

2. My paper designs are merely a sketch of the finished item. They allow me to organise spacing, calculate size and ensure the colours work. The choice of stitches, the backstitch detailing and the design specifics stay in my head until it comes to putting them onto the fabric. This means that I can allow the design to grow naturally without becoming blinkered by a piece of paper - I have found that I can become almost hypnotised by a detailed plan & not see the inherent problems in the piece.

3. Why should someone else have all the fun?!! I love to stitch & embroider - that's why I started to design - so why should I give the enjoyment to someone else? They'll get their chance when the design is published!

4. How can I write stitching & finishing instructions when I've not made the piece? Each box, notebook or needlecase comes with its own set of challenges. The card backing needs to be measured to the exact millimetre in some cases and I would not understand this unless I had constructed the piece myself. I do research finishing methods, but for example, what works for a Miladys Needle design won't necessarily work for one of my Blue Coppice designs! One of the key points with the designs for me is that each piece is treated as a whole. I don't design the stitching & then think "What shall I make this into?", the final shape of the piece is fundamental to the design.

Okay, you might say, well what about the Floral Sampler? That was a picture so didn't need construction diagrams - why didn't that go to a model stitcher? Well, it certainly had a lot of changes in it! The woodland trees that are now worked over one thread? They were originally intended to be worked in french knots. The colonial knots for the forget-me-knots were originally cross-stitches. The tulips had been planned to be worked in satin-stitch - they are now worked in cross-stitch.

None of these decisions could have been made if someone else had worked the piece for me!

5. Money! The profits to be made from designing are pretty minimal! The majority of the money from sales goes directly to pay printing bills, the rest goes towards supplies of fabric & threads. How could I afford to pay a model stitcher the rate they'd deserve?

Yes, I could cut corners by producing the charts without the instructions or colour highlights. I could produce them on a low-grade paper. I could find a cheaper printer. Well, sorry, I'm not going to. I took the decision when I started to produce the charts on good quality paper & card stock that would stand up to the rigours of stitching! Flimsy paper, blurred images, illegible charts, poor instructions - these are all problems that myself & many stitchers have experienced, and we vote with our feet. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard stitchers say "I loved that design but I'd never buy another chart from that company." It is a competitive market & I want my customers to come back to me!

So, my high printing charges will stand, my profits will be minimal & I will never be able to afford to pay for a model stitcher - but I am proud of the quality of my charts & that feeling inside when someone says "What a beautifully presented pack" is worth more than an extra couple of pennies profit! :D

Hmm. Ended up getting a little side-tracked there!

Anyway, it looks like I'm going to have to carry on squeezing in odd bits of stitching here & there, dreaming of the day when I can stop working in the corporate jungle & run Blue Coppice as a full-time business from home....

Oh, and if there are any millionaires out there with some spare cash that's just hanging around in the bank? How about subsidising the arts? I've heard it's a good way to get a peerage....

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Welcome to my world....

Well, here I am. Rather bored at work & wishing I could go home to do something rather more constructive than writing blurb for a corporate brochure.

I suppose I'd better introduce myself for the benefit of those poor lost souls trapped in the wilderness that is the internet...

During the day, I'm part of the cut & thrust of corporate life as I work as a Design/Graphics Manager. However, my alter-ego surfaces at night & weekends (and well, let's face it, any chance I get during working hours as well...) & I moonlight as an Embroidery Designer.

Yes, I know, not the coolest, hippest of occupations, but it's something that I have a passion for & have been doing in some form for many years. So less of the sarky comments thank you!

I've been self-publishing my designs for the last 6 months or so, & much to my surprise they've been getting a good reception. From it being a germ of an idea this time last year, I'm now supplying one of the best embroidery shops in the UK - The Country Cross Stitcher in Woburn, Bedfordshire - and have an ever-growing list of new customers, many of whom based in the USA. The internet is a wonderful thing...

I would love to give up my job & design my pieces full-time, particularly because I have over 150 ideas begging to be stitched, however due to the usual dull practicalities of life (mortgage, bills, mortgage, bills, mortgage, get the picture?) it looks like I'll be here for a long time yet.

Unless I win the lottery.

Although it might help if I actually bought the odd ticket......